Sunday, March 30, 2014

1957 was the best-ever year for movies (and other surprising insights from IMDb)

Big data can answer a lot of big debates … like which episode of “Seinfeld” was the funniest. (Columbia TriStar Television Photo/Reuters)

Want to know which episode of “Seinfeld” was the greatest? Curious which year produced the best films? At one point in time, these types of esoteric queries fell firmly in the realm of bar debates and bickering critics. But thanks to IMDb — that massive compendium of cinematic trivia and ratings — we can at last quantify things like, say, the best move made in 1985. (Spoiler alert: It’s “Back to the Future.”)

This brilliant and vindicating insight comes courtesy Reddit, where “monoglot,” an enterprising user in the /r/movies forum, parsed tens of thousands of movie reviews to assemble a list of the movies that got the most perfect reviews for every year between 1894 and the present. (More on the methodology here.) Using a similar data set, monoglot was also able to calculate the “best” years for movies, as determined by the average IMDb score of that year’s most popular films. The winners were 1957, 1994, 1995, 1975 and 2001, in that order.

The highest-rated movies, in this case, aren’t always the most-acclaimed ones. Both “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars” score an unlikely hat trick. “The Intouchables,” a feel-good French flick about a quadriplegic that most Americans probably never saw, wins top place for 2011. Here’s the full list:

2013: Gravity
2012: The Dark Knight Rises
2011: Intouchables
2010: Inception
2009: Inglourious Basterds
2008: The Dark Knight
2007: No Country for Old Men
2006: The Departed
2005: Batman Begins
2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2003: The Return of the King
2002: The Two Towers
2001: The Fellowship of the Ring
2000: Memento
1999: Fight Club
1998: Saving Private Ryan
1997: Titanic
1996: Trainspotting
1995: Se7en
1994: The Shawshank Redemption
1993: Schindler’s List
1992: Reservoir Dogs
1991: The Silence of the Lambs
1990: Goodfellas
1989: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
1988: Die Hard
1987: Full Metal Jacket
1986: Aliens
1985: Back to the Future
1984: The Terminator
1983: Return of the Jedi
1982: Blade Runner
1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark
1980: The Empire Strikes Back
1979: Alien
1978: The Deer Hunter
1977: Star Wars
1976: Taxi Driver
1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
1974: The Godfather: Part II
1973: The Exorcist
1972: The Godfather
1971: A Clockwork Orange
1970: Patton
1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
1968: 2001: A Space Odyssey
1967: The Graduate
1966: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
1965: For a Few Dollars More
1964: Dr. Strangelove
1963: The Great Escape
1962: Lawrence of Arabia
1961: Breakfast at Tiffany’s
1960: Psycho
1959: North by Northwest
1958: Vertigo
1957: 12 Angry Men
1956: The Searchers
1955: The Night of the Hunter
1954: Seven Samurai
1953: Roman Holiday
1952: Singin’ in the Rain
1951: A Streetcar Named Desire
1950: Sunset Blvd.
1949: The Third Man
1948: Bicycle Thieves
1947: Miracle on 34th Street
1946: It’s a Wonderful Life
1945: Brief Encounter
1944: Double Indemnity
1943: Shadow of a Doubt
1942: Casablanca
1941: Citizen Kane
1940: The Great Dictator
1939: The Wizard of Oz
1938: Bringing Up Baby
1937: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
1936: Modern Times
1935: Bride of Frankenstein
1934: It Happened One Night
1933: King Kong
1932: Freaks
1931: City Lights
1930: All Quiet on the Western Front
1929: Un chien andalou
1928: The Passion of Joan of Arc
1927: Metropolis
1926: The General
1925: The Gold Rush
1924: Sherlock Jr.
1923: Safety Last!
1922: Nosferatu
1921: The Kid
1920: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
1919: Broken Blossoms
1918: A Dog’s Life
1917: The Immigrant
1916: Intolerance
1915: The Birth of a Nation
1914: Tillie’s Punctured Romance
1913: Fantomas
1912: The Revenge of a Kinematograph Cameraman
1911: Winsor McCay, the Famous Cartoonist of the N.Y. Herald and His Moving Comics
1910: Frankenstein
1909: The Devilish Tenant
1908: Fantasmagorie
1907: Ben Hur
1906: Dream of a Rarebit Fiend
1905: Le diable noir
1904: An Impossible Voyage
1903: The Great Train Robbery
1902: A Trip to the Moon
1901: The India Rubber Head
1900: The One-Man Band
1899: The Kiss in the Tunnel
1898: Four Heads Are Better Than One
1897: Leaving Jerusalem by Railway
1896: Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat
1895: Employees Leaving the Lumière Factory
1894: Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze

This isn’t the only interesting project to pull from IMDb data in recent weeks.GraphTV — a visualization tool by the software engineer Kevin Wu — charts the ratings of TV shows over different seasons. “Star Trek” mostly got better. “The Simpsons” mostly got worse.

And what about “Seinfeld,” you ask? It’s a tie between “The Contest” (season 4, episode 11) and “The Soup” Nazi (season 7, episode 6). Although, per the IMDb hive mind, all nine seasons are pretty hilarious.